Roundtable Interview with Anna Faris and Dan Fogler


Anna Faris and Dan Fogler interview header

A solid actress and nearly universally acclaimed comic in the tradition of Lucille Ball, Carol Channing, and Carol Burnett, Anna Faris has shined in films as diverse as “Lost in Translation,” “The House Bunny,” “Smiley Face,” “Brokeback Mountain,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” As an aspiring author circa the late 1980’s who must decide whether or not she wants to marry her deeply stupid boyfriend, played by her new real-life husband, Chris Pratt of “Parks and Recreation,” “Take Me Home Tonight” proves that, though she hasn’t had much practice, Faris can very competently play a character with an IQ that breaks three digits. She also gets to develop an interesting chemistry with her onscreen twin brother, leading man Topher Grace.

Dan Fogler originally broke out on stage with a Tony-winning role in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy that involved improvisation with select audience members. Though no film version was attempted, Fogler was able to nab the lead role in the ping-pong-centric martial arts spoof, “Balls of Fury,” and supporting roles in “Good Luck Chuck,” “Horton Hears a Who,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Fanboys.” I have to admit that Fogler’s comedic talent eluded me when I saw him in “Fury,” but no more: in a seemingly stereotypical role as Topher Grace’s obnoxious-yet-loyal best buddy, Fogler all but steals the film, getting enormous laughs mining the vulnerability and desperation of his blustery failed car salesman.

It was at a press day held at a swanky ultra-modern mansion in the outer reaches of Beverly Hill that a gaggle of writers got the opportunity to question Faris and Fogler. Although “Take Me Home Tonight,” which chronicles one very intense night in 1988 with a bunch of Los Angeles 20-somethings, had languished in non-release for two years, the tone was upbeat. The first topic: a scene where Fogler’s proves that he can dance if he wants to, though not necessarily very well, opposite bandanna-wearing Caucasian B-Boy Tyler “Dance Machine” Jones (Robert Hoffman).

ALSO, check out our interview with Anna and Dan’s “Take Me Home Tonight” co-star Topher Grace!

Journalist: Dan, your dancing — did you just go up there and boogie, or did somebody choreograph that?

Dan Fogler: I choreographed it.

Journalist: Did you actually practice?

DF: They gave me the song beforehand, which was… [singing the legendary words of “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats]. And then, basically, a couple of days before, I did a whole routine in my condo. It had a lot of wild moves in it and I had to, like, pare it back. It was too elaborate, I guess. They said I had to look like I’m not a good dancer, and I studied with Alvin Ailey, so…

Anna Faris: I told (someone) earlier that it was like you were having a choreographed seizure.

DF: Yeah, I got snagged. The record got scratched.

Journalist: This film talks a lot about how high school affects your life. When you were in high school, what group did you guys fit into?

DF: I was the theater geek.

AF: I was a theater geek, too.

Journalist: Did people like the theater geeks at your school, or were you outcasts?

DF: I went to a school where sports and being a jock and the alpha males [dominated]. I definitely liked the cheerleaders, but I wasn’t in their crew. They really only gave praise to you around a performance. That’s the only time they talked to you. “Good job in the show, okay. I can’t be seen with you.”

AF: In my high school, you couldn’t be more of a social outcast. We were called the Bat Capers.

DF: The what? “The Bat Capers”?

AF: Nobody saw our shows, except for our parents.

DF: That’s really bad.

Journalist: But you guys turned out so nice. Anna, have you ever been in a situation where…it doesn’t have to be just like the movie, but where you had to choose between either some form of education or another path and your career? Your character is at a crossroads in a lot of ways.

AF: Embarrassingly enough, I did go to the university I went to because of my first boyfriend, and he broke up with me. It’s so “Felicity.” But I graduated, and then I was going to go to London and pursue [marketing.] I wanted to be an actress, but I just thought there was no way that was possible. Then, sort of at the last minute, I [thought]I should give L.A. a shot. If I’m miserable and working at Starbucks in a year, then I’ll think about marketing or whatever and move back to Seattle. But I booked a classic called “Scary Movie” and my parents were so proud. [Laughter]

Journalist: Anna, you met your new husband, Chris Pratt, on the site of this film, right?

AF: Mmhm.

Journalist: So was it kind of love at first sight?

Anna FarisAF: We didn’t start dating until after the movie was wrapped, but we were both from the same home town. I was really impressed with his acting. It was really impressive to me. We all became really close as a cast. He was dating a couple of ladies at the time, during the making of the movie. Yeah, there were a couple of background actresses. [Laughing]

Journalist: Now that you’re married, do you have plans for a baby at all?

AF: We would love to have a family, but you know, we sort of have to wait for a beat or two. But hopefully that will be in our future.

Journalist: Speaking of lengthy gestation periods, it’s been awhile between the completion of this film and its actual release. How much of a relief does it feel to get it out there?

AF: I never felt that nervous about it not being out, did you? I don’t know if I did.

DF: There was a moment there…there was a transitioning from someone’s hands who was like… [makes bored/indecisive noise]…about it, into someone’s hands who was “yeah!” about it. So during that transition, we were, like, “Don’t drop it! Oh, God!”

Journalist: So the transition from indifference to enthusiasm was what made the difference for getting the movie out?

AF: I think there was fear at the time, and the climate has changed so much. “The Hangover” has changed the whole climate in Hollywood. But before that, I think drugs were a little scary, and the boobs and the ‘80s weren’t back yet. So we had a few uphill…

DF: …Some uphill struggles.

AF: Yeah. And it’s great that now it’s found a home with a lot of enthusiasm behind it. It feels like it’s a good time for R-rated comedies right now.

Journalist: What do you think about the setting? I’m curious, do you think this movie could have been set in modern times? Or do you think it has to be the ‘80s.

DF: A lot of people getting out of college and not having a purpose, and not having a job to go to. It’s very relevant. So it could have taken place now. I love that it took place in the ‘80s. Those were, like, my formative years, so it was great to go back and relive that at an older age, where I really enjoy the insanity of it. What about you?

AF: Topher talks a lot about how he worked really hard making sure this wasn’t a spoof of the ‘80s. I think it’s hard to be emotionally invested with a character’s journey if you’re also mocking…

DF: …Their haircut.

AF: (Laughs) Yeah. So I think it’s a bit of a timeless story, or at least over, I don’t know, four decades.

Bullz-Eye: The movie did do a good job kind of nailing the ‘80s. Did you do any specific research?

AF: I showed up to a fitting.

DF: I think they gave us a stack of ‘80s movies to watch, and I watched all of them. I really wanted to give an homage to the different people…The very quick talking and sort of organizing like Anthony Michael Hall in [places like]bathroom stalls, he’s like very specific, I wanted to master that. And a couple moments, the back and forth was really fun. Also, I love the idea that, like Bruce Willis in “Blind Date,” where he starts off [looking very]together and by the end of the movie, he’s [acts out looking completely disheveled]. I love that. That was a great arc to play. Staying out being very tightly wound at the beginning and then finally being able to let loose was a lot of fun.

Journalist: How much improv did you guys do?

DF: They let us play. We always did what was on the page and then they gave us time to [mess around]. I would say it was about 50-50.

AF: You were amazing.

DF: (Laughs) Thanks. Definitely the cocaine scene in the bathroom is basically [improvised], I think there was one line in there originally. And then I begin my monologue about “Am I going to do this?” There was that and then I think the one line in there was “blammo” and that was it. All of the stuff on the dance floor, “I’m growling at you! I’m a lion,” that was all not in [the script]at all.

Journalist: Dan, you have so many crazy scenes in this and it was so funny, but which one was your favorite?

DF: I loved stealing the car.

Journalist: Was that all you? The crazy stunts and jumping into the car.

DF: Yeah.

AF: Dan doesn’t drive.

DF: I don’t really drive.

AF: We didn’t have quite the budget to crash that convertible, at least at that point in the shoot.

DF: I came so close.

AF: He came so close to my orange car.

Journalist: [To Anna Faris] Do you think your character needed a little danger in her life?

AF: Yeah, I think she also has a sort of very combative relationship with both Matt and Barry [Topher Grace and Dan Fogler’s characters]. She’s always been one of the guys a little bit in that relationship. So I don’t think she would be one to come down on them. She wants to be part of the fun.

Faris Fogler

Journalist: The soundtrack for the film, it’s such a key part of the pulse of it. I’m curious, for each of you, what is your definitive ‘80’s jam?

DF: I loved the whole Thriller album. We used to stay in from play time. I think I was in fourth grade or fifth grade and we would be, like, “Who wants to go outside?” and everyone would opt to stay in and listen to the album and dance. It was crazy.

Journalist: Ms. Faris, your ‘80’s jam?

AF: I loved Cyndi Lauper’s album. I think I’ve got to go with “Time After Time.”

Journalist: Good track.

AF: I remember being ten years old and crying, I don’t know why I was crying.

DF: I listened to that song by El DeBarge a million freaking times.

Journalist: “Rhythm of the Night”?

DF: (Singing the words) Oh, my God, I must have listened to that a million times.

Journalist: Dan, do you get as much excitement out of doing films as you did on the stage?

DF: Wow, you get the instant [gratification], obviously, of live; you get the crowd and the roaring. But yeah man, this is really exciting.

Journalist: Do you prefer one over the other?

DF: I love theater, but I still have a really romantic outlook on films. There’s still a lot of stuff in film that I want to do, so it’s this big open playground.

Journalist: I think Topher said the other day this was a little like a John Hughes movie. I wondered if you had any favorite John Hughes movies from that era.

DF: I loved “The Breakfast Club,” that was my favorite.

AF: “Pretty in Pink.”

Journalist: Anna, I was going to ask you, since you are friends with Hef [as apparently evidenced by her performance as the super-ditsy Shelley Darlingson of “The House Bunny,” in which Hugh Hefner has a couple of funny cameos], are you going to his wedding?

AF: Yes. We’re really close. I’m marrying them. (Laughing)

Journalist: Are you going to the wedding?

AF: No, but we are, strangely, having a screening of this movie in like a week [at the Playboy Mansion]. Are you going to that?

DF: I heard about it.

AF: Well, you can come. It won’t be the same without you. Anyway, no, I haven’t been invited. Maybe I am, maybe I will be.

Journalist: Ms. Faris, you’ve done such great comedic work in films like the tragically under seen “Smiley Face.” Was it a nice pleasure to have more of an emotional through line [in “Take Me Home Tonight” than a lot of your other films]?

AF: It was really rewarding to play a character that is a little more intelligent than the characters I normally play. It was a relief. It was nice to also be a part of such a strong ensemble, and sort of figure out my place in that. Just a character that had a little more bite to her, a little brassiness. She was complicated. I think she’s also deeply unhappy. It was a nice reward for me.

Journalist: Is there a genre or a director that you would love to work with?

AF: I hope I keep continuing to do comedy. I’m really interested in playing messy women, as opposed to the type A women that we’ve seen in a lot in romantic comedies. I want to play looser and I hope that there’s an audience for that. So I’m working on some loose ideas.

Journalist: Anna, can you talk about Chris’s crying scene at the end? Did you help him or was that all him?

AF: There was a point where he was having trouble, [director Michael Dowese]really wanted him to break down and it was 6:00 in the morning; we were so exhausted. He was having some trouble getting there. Then, the craziest thing happened. We took a break, he came back and he just like starts slobbering and I think every one of the crew, including myself, was [thinking]“What is this? It’s so confusing what we’re seeing. It’s hysterical and it’s tragic and it’s disgusting and amazing.” It was love.

Journalist: Did you find out what he did on that break?

AF: No. I think like really, he just put the pressure on himself. Some actors can do it immediately and some actors sort of need a minute or two to kind of…

DF: …Game themselves.

Journalist: Can each of you think of two words that just represents the ‘80s for you?

DF: I’d say bright neon. “Miami Vice”.

Journalist: Awesome.

AF: Excess.

Journalist: That was my word.

AF: I want to say, I don’t know if I’m quite right about this, but maybe it’s because I was a kid in the ‘80’s, I feel like there was something very naive, as well, in the excess; sort of wrapped up in that.

Journalist: Is it harder shooting a period piece that was set in a period that you lived through, rather than like shooting a movie that was set in the ‘60’s?

AF: I think this is the furthest back I’ve gone.

DF: It was great because you feel like you’re kind of an expert in it. You lived it…I was in “Taking Woodstock” and we went back to the ‘60’s. I felt like, “Am I ‘60’s enough right now?” There was a freeness and more of like a stilted vibe, a past that is more fluid. You didn’t catch on to that you looked kind of weird.

Faris Fogler

Journalist: But on stage you’ve done period stuff, right?

DF: Yeah, but on film you’ve got a magnifying glass on you.

Journalist: What’s next for both of you? What do you have in the can that we haven’t seen yet or what’s next?

AF: I’ve got a movie coming out in September called “What’s Your Number?” It’s my romantic comedy movie.

DF: I’ve got a movie called “Mars Needs Moms” coming out. It’s motion-capture.

Journalist: You had to get in the suit with the dots on it and everything?

DF: It’s a big 3-D Disney thing.

Journalist: Who are you?

DF: I play Gribble. I play this guy who’s been cast away on Mars for like 20 years. All he knows is the ‘80’s actually.

Journalist: Mars needs women?

DF: Yes, human women. And I’m directing this movie called “Don Peyote,” which will be out this time next year probably.

Journalist: [To Anna Faris] Regarding your relationship with Topher in this, you’re playing twins. Was there anything that you were told to particularly channel, or did you just decide to play it like you did?

AF: We have a combative energy that’s kind of sibling naturally. I don’t know where it came from, but we tease each other a lot.

DF: They have similar coloring, too. They have similar eyes. You guys look like you were twins.

AF: We’re both kind of …we have kind of a know-it-all, sort of bossy attitude about us, I think.

DF: You finish each others’ sentences. That’s a joke that we’ve been saying over and over. It’s been lost.

AF: No, it hasn’t. It’s ripening. It’s just going through its pungent stage.

DF: It’s better when the other person says the whole thing. It’s supposed to be that you’re finishing each other’s…

AF: …Sandwiches.


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